Late on Sunday night, live from Canada the Cardiff Devils gave their fans the best bedtime story they could think of, four player signings.
First up was hometown boy Matt Myers, then the age defying Layne Ulmer, following him was the player the fans love to sing about Justin Faryna…then the Devils finally gave their fans what they’ve wanted all summer.
A new signing.
Mike Heddon, who’s played in the ECHL, AHL, KHL, Liiga and DEL is heading to South Wales to join the Devils, and so far is the only new name to get a name in the locker room.
The fans waited so patiently for a new signing, some practically begged for it, but surely the lack of new faces around the rink is a good thing.
Apart from the endless amounts of trophies he’s won, one of the things that defines the Andrew Lord era for the Cardiff Devils is how many familiar faces there are year in and year out.
Since Andrew Lord became the head coach of the Devils following that year we don’t mention, he’s not once sacked a player midseason, and some players could probably call themselves Welsh by now with how long they’ve been kept around.
But each year they’re older so surely on the decline? So why does Lord keep bringing these ageing vets back?
Well that’s because, with the exception of Layne Ulmer (sorry bud) they were brought in entering their prime years, and they’re still there. Ulmer may be the grandfather on the team, and could probably use his bus pass to get free travel too and from away games, but even he’s by no means an old guy slowing down.
The formula of keeping a similar core of guys around has worked wonders in Cardiff so it’s no wonder that it seems to have been implemented elsewhere.
Yes the Devils didn’t introduce this idea, I mean some teams have been keeping guys in town for a few years long before the Andrew Lord era, and yes other teams are currently doing it too, but perhaps not on the same scale.
In 2014-15, a year after that year, Lord first led the team as coach. Since then, fans have been treated to a similar looking core group.
After year one, 14 guys returned, that increased to 16 following year two, back down to 14 after year three and we’re at 14 and counting after year four.
Given the nature of success in South Wales with the same band of brothers back year in, and year out. What need do the Devils have to bring in new guys all the time?
Every now and then they may need to find a new back up for Ben Bowns, but with a few good young Brit goalies coming through the rank, if Tom Murdy moved on to a starting job elsewhere then it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Replacing older guys, retiring guys and players who just want a change of scenery is the only real need the Devils have.
Andrew Hotham – Credit CardiffDevils.com
Obviously there is a big hole on defence now that Andrew Hotham has gone, but surely Lord’s track record of bringing in solid replacements should put the fans minds at ease.
Of course Hotham leaves a huge gap, but that just opens the door for another new face to step in and try and become a fan favourite.
With new signings it’s about addressing a need, not a carbon copy of the missing player.
We don’t know who the Devils will bring in for that role but I’m sure, given the calibre of their latest signing Mike Hedden, it’s clear that the Devils have got someone great lined up.
The lack of new faces can only mean more success in South Wales, yes they’re getting older but they’re not getting worse.
If anything they’re just getting even more comfortable together than they already are, which is probably scary to the other league.
So as much as it is nice to get excited about a new player, and forums are always packed with highly inaccurate rumours made up after a few too many in a beer garden about who’s coming in, there really isn’t any need for it in Cardiff.
When the Devils announced Mike Hedden there was a lot of emphasis on character. This past years Devils team were one of the closest groups of players in franchise history, so all Andrew Lord needs to do is get guys like Hedden who he believes will contribute on and off the ice, while trying to keep the core group in tact as long as he can.
It’s going to be another great year of hockey in South Wales.